Over 200 Chinese vessels moored at West Philippine Sea reef
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government expressed concern after spotting 220 Chinese vessels it believed to be “manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel” at a reef in the West Philippine Sea.
The vessels were spotted in line formation at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef on March 7, 2021, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a report to the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
The task force raised the concern “due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation.”
“Despite clear weather at the time, the Chinese vessels massed at the reef showed no actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night time,” it said.
Julian Felipe Reef is a large boomerang – shaped shallow coral reef northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan, the task force said.
The reef is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, which the NTF -WPS said the Philippines owns “exclusive right to use resources, including fish, oil and natural gas.”
The task force said the government will continue to monitor the situation to protect Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“In consonance with the Philippine commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Government shall continue to peacefully and proactively pursue its initiatives on environmental protection, food security and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea as part of its overall national security policy,” it said.
Asked if a diplomatic protest would be filed, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the DFA will do so upon the recommendation of the military.
“Only if the generals tell me. In my watch foreign policy is the fist in the iron glove of the armed forces. I don’t care for media. Undependable. And civilian,” he said on Twitter.
China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, which refers to waters claimed by the Philippines.
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